Screen versus green
Nature-deficit disorder makes a case for planting the kids outside by Darcy Streitenfeld
Let’s face it, these days we are often more interested in uploading lush green scenery to Instagram than revelling in it. Are shortened attention spans the only consequence of our increasingly digital and decreasingly natural existences? What does this mean for kids today when the average Canadian child is soaking up a whopping seven hours of screen time daily?
In 2005, writer Richard Louv published Last Child in the Woods, his attempt to answer those questions. In the bestseller he coined the term “nature deficit disorder,” or NDD, a condition featuring a host of troubling behavioural issues including obesity, depression and anxiety disorders, corresponding with the rise in antidepressants being prescribed to children. He attributes each condition to our systematic detachment from nature.
NDD states that a child’s ability to concentrate is categorically improved by increased time in “green spaces.” Beyond Louv’s hypothesis, there is evidence to suggest that an atmospheric diet of glass and concrete — as opposed to leaves and dirt — could be the culprit behind the rise of allergies.
Moral of the story? Get your kid outside. There is much to be gained. We can all have better moods, healthier bodies and increased concentration. Toronto parents can even stave off NDD in their own backyards. With a little planning and enthusiasm, you can easily make green time a part of your family’s routine.
Here are some ways to get kids to shut down the screens and get into the green: 1) Take daily walks. Each day be sure to get the whole family outside. An after-dinner stroll is a great way to catch up with each other, relax and connect. 2) Make it fun! Get the whole fam excited about monthly outdoor jaunts. Each member can take turns choosing their own adventure. Planning is half the fun, building anticipation before the memories themselves. 3) Get involved. Not enough nature-based field trips at your child’s school? Make your voice heard. Speak to the teachers and the principals to increase outdoor time and field trips. Come prepared with doable examples. 4) Be a role model. You can’t be a “do what I say, not as I do” parent in this case. There’s no better way to communicate the importance of the great outdoors than being genuinely gung-ho about it. If you want your kids to soak up the beauty of nature, get to it yourself.
Reconnect your kids with the outdoors